The effectiveness of face masks is currently a hot topic as people around the world have begun to stockpile in fear of catching the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). We spoke with Dr. Kate Gaynor from Guangzhou United Family Hospital on the best preventative measures to take.
How effective are face masks?
Face masks have some limited benefit in stopping the spread of the new coronavirus. They serve as a physical barrier to contaminated droplets. But if you are not near other people then they are not necessary. I worry that sometimes masks give people a false sense of security. Your mask certainly isn’t doing much good if you wear it faithfully yet fail to wash your hands.
What best practices should we follow at the moment?
People should remember to wash or use alcohol hand sanitizer immediately upon removing a mask. Remember the outside of the mask could be contaminated if you were actually close to an infected person. In general, I believe that frequent handwashing or use of alcohol hand sanitizer is more powerful for prevention of illness than using a mask. Be aware of the things you touch. Avoid touching elevator buttons or door handles in public places if possible. If you do touch them, clean your hands and avoid touching your face. If you are wearing a mask, don’t keep messing with it and adjusting it. Masks are definitely of value when worn by sick people. This definitely decreases the chance of a sick person spreading their infection.
For those staying at home, is it safe to go outside for walks?
It’s perfectly safe for healthy people to go outdoors, as long as you are not crowding together with other people. It’s probably good for your mental health too, to get outside.
[Cover image via Unsplash]